the shipbuilder

Imagine you were a shipbuilder. You built the most beautiful ships, they were as magnificent (and luciferic) as the old Vasa and sank almost as predictably. Although the Vasa, of course, was one ship that sank once. You were different. You insisted on building exactly the same boat over and over again, and had been doing this for almost a century. You saw nothing fishy about the original construction plan, or about the promises you made,  but, unfortunately, some of your unlucky passengers were doomed to see a hell of a lot of fish.

It was the perfect ship model, you said. Sure, there might be one or two small things… no, not even that. When you thought hard, you could not think of one single thing of the original plan that needed be altered. Okay, admittedly, on some ships you had been more or less forced — mostly due to interference from the outside world — to change a few things (among them, for example, making room for a captain).

Despite the overwhelming perfection, the ships quite oddly kept ending up at the bottom of the sea. They were going down like the old Atlantis, and (most strangely) retained their allure just like it.

When people asked about it, you said it was that particular crew that handled the ship badly. Or they had not studied the map and one knows what can happen then (although nobody was quite sure about the map — what was the map? Were they really looking at the same map? Or sailing towards the same goal?). Or the captain, well, the captain had failed. He was a bad captain. Possibly drunk. An isolated case. It hadn’t happened before and, if it had happened before (sometimes someone reminded you), it certainly had nothing to do with the ship itself or it being too difficult to handle or that the instructions for how to sail it were badly conceived, perhaps even impossible to follow. Sure, uneducated and untrained staff is hardly a good idea, but if there are holes in the hull when the ship is delivered there’s only so much they can do. (Carving pieces of cork to plug them with is basically the only thing that comes to mind. An honorable pursuit, but perhaps, in the end, also rather futile.) You deny any holes, though, the hull, in fact, is perfect, and not at all like a Swiss cheese. Same with everything else. It’s perfect.

As a shipbuilder, there are lots of other factors you might prefer to lay the blame on. For example, the passengers. It’s particularly convenient if they have actually drowned, as the dead rarely speak (to ordinary people). But even if not… I mean, surely, those ungrateful bastards — screaming and waving frantically in their life vests (thrown in from another ship ’cause you had gotten exemptions from safety regulations, which would impede your freedom, and didn’t carry any on the journey) — simply don’t understand your boat! Besides, why are they complaining at all, they got an opportunity to swim in the ocean. And then there are those other passengers. The whiners. Oh, those lamentable wrecks of human beings who can’t see the beauty of your sinking or already sunken… sorry, your majestic… endeavours. Some are simply mad and thus, naturally, unable to tell a sinking ship from one that’s floating. Some couples travelling with your ships were not really agreeing on embarking on them in the first place — you know how those battles can cloud people’ judgement. They blame you for the sinking, when they’re hating each other! Your shipwreck just happened to get in the way of their lust for revenge. Then, of course, there are the nymphomaniacs (I’m sorry to have to use that word!) who didn’t get the attention they craved from the handsome crew and turned this against you for no fault of your own and promoted the idea that you had designed the ship badly (and although the ship had clearly sunk, it surely wasn’t you! The nerve!). Then there were the hateful ones. The spiteful ones. The ill-willed. All those who bore grudges against you for no reason at all (at least no reason you’d admit to, you simply ignored their reasons, and put it all down to them personally). Not to speak of those who were unhappy with the food. Or who didn’t appreciate the unsteadiness of the ship, or the nausea… Of course, none of them understood your genius either. They knew not what they were talking about.

(I could go on. The cases are reality based. For what it’s worth.)

The passengers who had not yet experienced your ships’ propensity for capsizing would continue to praise your shipbuilding skills and the beauty of the boats, onboard of which everybody was happy and smiling and the music never stopped playing. They had never seen any problems, they’d say, they were enchanted by you and your striving to provide the very best. Naturally, they went with your every whim. Believed your every word. Chanted to the world about the importance of your freedom. How blissful they were, and lucky. Fate shone on them. Not that they didn’t deserve it; that was part of the philosophy. The sinking ships, somehow, weren’t. They shouldn’t have been. They were undeserved interferences.

And still, the ships kept sinking. At some point you’d think a shipbuilder would begin to suspect that perhaps there was something not quite so perfect about the vessel design itself. Perhaps it should be reevaluated. Perhaps, really, the ships were too difficult to steer, and should be built differently. Or perhaps the construction was too fragile in some way or another. Perhaps too contingent on extraordinary skills on the part of the crew. Perhaps it was unrealistic, beautiful, but unrealistic. (Like the Vasa.) Well, perhaps you would harbour such thoughts, if you were building ships (not running educational institutions) and wanting to do better. At least if you bothered about people, sorry passengers, more than about the myths — self-aggrandizing and other — or the old Atlantis.

*

Here we go again, this time in Switzerland, the home of the anthroposophical movement. But there’s nothing wrong with the construction plan of these schools, of course. Only with the application. That may be true, or perhaps it’s not (but those who are involved are unlikely to want to find out if it’s not). I already commented, and it’s enough. All of this, enough. I really only wanted to teach you about the Vasa ship. But I had to work around it.